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Apodaca: Love will help us care for the aging generation

October 18, 2013|By Patrice Apodca

The term "sandwich generation" has been around for a few decades, but the issue of caring for geriatric parents is gaining urgency as our population steadily ages.

Increasingly, baby boomers and Gen-Xers find themselves caught between their responsibilities to their children and the needs of their elderly parents, all while hurtling toward their own impending dotage.

It's an uncomfortable position, fraught with heartbreaking uncertainty and excruciating decisions complicated by the emotional baggage of family history.

Everywhere I go these days, I hear friends and acquaintances discussing the state of their parents' physical and mental health. They agonize over questions involving safety versus independence, finances and how to ensure an appropriate level of care and oversight.

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An increasing number of Americans find themselves caught betwixt and between. According to a study released by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown offspring.

About one in seven middle-aged adults provides financial support to both an aging parent and a child, the study found, and nearly one-third reported that their elderly parents needed help handling their affairs.

In addition to the personal burden, the needs of the elderly carry huge societal costs, from medical care to lost work productivity as grown children are forced to deal with their parents' health and daily living issues.

Those costs are bound to rise. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double to 72 million from the year 2000 to 2030, compared with a 33% increase in the population overall.

But no study or data point can capture the heartache that many of us suffer when it comes to deciding what to do about Mom and Dad.

I've already been there. My dear mother passed away when I was still a young adult; afterward, my father went into a long and agonizing physical and mental decline.

Before that, Dad had been a proud, stoic, self-sufficient man. But his multiple health issues began to rob him of his memory, functional ability and reasoning capacity. His younger self would have been horrified at his loss of dignity.

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